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Fractional Executives as a Catalyst for Innovation: Unlocking Potential in Your Organization

October 18, 2023
By Cara ChatellierOctober 18, 2023

An Fractional Executives s executive meets in a conference room with the leadership team to discuss innovation.

The world is changing, and your business has to keep up. Having the agility to do so, however, is a challenge, especially for your high-end executives. Fractional Executives are an answer to the problem. But, how?

When you hire a Fractional Executive, you bring in a fresh voice, an external set of eyes, and different training, without anyone needing to feel threatened. It's not the same as consulting...consultants give advice, but their goal is to make you dependent on their advice. An interim or fractional executive wants to finish the project and move on to the next challenge.

Fractional Executives and Innovation

Fractional Executives are major drivers of innovation. There are a number of reasons why an interim executive works with you to improve innovation and flexibility. Three main ones are:

  1. External expertise. Your people are experts or you wouldn't hire them. But after a period of time they become too close to your company's problems. Things get done the way they have always been done without much consideration for how well it works. We all do it. An interim executive comes in from outside and can look at what your company is doing and suggest changes.
  2. Speed and agility. Interim executives and fractional executives love the challenge of hitting the ground running. They can come in and move on a project without weeks or months of onboarding because that is the environment in which they thrive. They can make changes quickly and help your company be more agile.
  3. Skill gap filling. If you have a noticeable skill gap in your leadership team, a fractional executive can fill it quickly. This might be for a specific project or while you look for a permanent hire. By filling skill gaps quickly, you lessen the negative impact on your company.

Real World Examples

Digital transformation and innovation are an area Fractional Executives s can help with substantially. For example, back when the photo industry changed from film to digital, major players got left behind. One such used Fractional Executives to help them understand how to move to digital, converting their stores, changing customer behavior, and increasing sales. He did this by helping store associates learn about how digital photography worked and how they could sell it better. He eventually chose to stay with the company and become a VP.

In another case, a company needed to migrate from a legacy IDMS system to the modern Oracle platform. However, while everyone knew how to use the IDMS system, few people had the deep knowledge to reformat and migrate the data. They brought in Fractional Executives to handle everything from writing code and reformating the files to helping people switch to the new software.

Benefits and Challenges

There are strong benefits to leveraging interim talent. They include:

  • Access to skills and perspectives your leadership team might lack. This might be a specific skill, such as a deep understanding of IDMS, or it might be a different leadership style that you can learn from and adapt.
  • Quick impact. Bringing on a new full-time hire with the skills you need can take as long as a year. Fractional Executives can start working within days.
  • Planned turnover. If you know you will only need the expertise for a short period of time, it is better for morale to bring in an interim or fractional executive who will be ready to move on to the next challenge than to hire and then fire a full-time employee. Or you might find yourself keeping them on even if you don't really need them, wasting money.

Potential challenges, however, do exist, which include:

  • Potential resistance from leadership to the ideas presented by the interim executive. When bringing in somebody to support innovation they will criticize the way you already do things, and that can be hard to take.
  • Cost. Interim executives typically cost more per day than a full-time hire.
  • Lack of alignment. There is always a risk the Fractional Executives s will struggle with your company's goals and values.


Fractional Executives fosters innovation by bringing in an outside viewpoint, less stuck in your company's ruts, and by allowing quick access to skills you might need for a project. It's worth exploring the use of Fractional Executives s as a strategy


About Cara Chatellier

Cara Chatellier is a digital marketing strategist & content writer. She lives in the Boston area and has worked with MetaExperts since October 2018. She loves travel, wine tastings, and podcasts.


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